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Objective: Reduce the Incidence of Violent and Drug Related Crimes and Prostitution
"Why should our kids be surrounded by drug dealers?…it’s just not safe" – Resident, 2/98
Violence, drug trafficking and prostitution are major threats to the quality of life in Emerson Park. Thirty-nine percent of residents surveyed identified drugs, prostitution and related crimes as a major problem. At the Neighborhood Summit held in March 1998, residents stated that prostitution was a major concern for both them and their children. Resident perceptions are backed by State of Illinois crime statistics. Between 1996 and 1997, the city’s crime index increased by 5.3%. According to the Illinois State Police’s Violent Crimes Map for 1997, there are identifiable hot spots in the neighborhood. These include Central City Homes, Exchange Ave, Lake, 15th, and 13th Streets. The incidence of crime is a threat to the stability of the community, especially in the area of Central City Homes due to its close proximity to the new Metro Link station and the new development that will surround it. This problem needs to be addressed immediately. Prevention is the key to a successful crime reduction strategy.
Through the crime prevention initiatives set out in this plan, the main goal is to find an overall decrease in crime by the year 2003, and begin support programs for all those affected by crime in the neighborhood. The direct beneficiaries will be current Emerson Park residents, business owners, and institutional leaders, as it will improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. The new Metro Link stop is estimated to bring in thousands of people each day. These commuters will also benefit from a safer environment. Crime reduction will provide an incentive for growth in the area, and encourage people to move in, thereby increasing the economic base of the community. Programs within this initiative will target several key areas, including violent crimes, neighborhood defacement, community-police relations, youth-police relations, prostitution, and public safety infrastructure improvements. In addition to the programs developed by Emerson Park, the last pages of this section include a brief description of Police and Community Partnership Programs that are administered by the East St. Louis Police Department.
The following areas have been specifically identified by residents as sites of high crime, drug trafficking and/or prostitution:
The "Smoke-Out" Drug and Crime Corners program will inform local law enforcement of the most dangerous and threatening areas of Emerson Park. Residents anonymously identify key sites in the neighborhood that are known to be heavy in crime, drugs and prostitution. Police officers receive coupons for hotdogs and hamburgers to be redeemed on a "Smoke-out" day. The coupons are sent to local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies to spread the word about crime in Emerson Park. When police officers visit the neighborhood to redeem their free food items, they can stop at any of the barbecue grills that are set up on these crime corners. In return for a good meal, police are asked to frequent this corner and eliminate the criminal activities that occur there. The program will last until all problem sights in Emerson Park are effectively patrolled and eliminated by the City of East St. Louis Police Department. The program identifies problem areas, brings them to the attention of law enforcement, shows criminals that their behavior is not welcome at that sight, and brings residents together to stop crime.
This program enhances the city’s commitment to Community Oriented Policing by creating partnerships between residents who are affected by crime everyday and the people whose job it is to serve and protect the community. Community Oriented Policing is built on the premise that the Police Officers are much more efficient when they know what they are looking for, as opposed to driving aimlessly about hoping to stumble upon a criminal act or waiting to be called after the fact. Crime, drugs, and prostitution are eliminated when residents who have the information both know and trust the officers and are confident the officer will help and will act appropriately on the information. "Smoke-Out" days increase interaction between police and residents, promotes trust, raises awareness and send a loud message that criminal behavior is not accepted in Emerson Park.
Implementation Timeline: Year 1
This is an on-going program that can begin organizing at any time during year 1. The first "smoke-out" should occur during the first warm month, most likely in March. The project can last for as long as the neighborhood supports it and sees reductions in criminal activity.
Residents can identify problem areas by:
Maintain a crime map in the EPDC office that uses push-pins to identify high-crime areas.
If the program is successful, than the pushpins can be removed from the map (see step #1) and when all the pins are removed, Emerson Park is a healthier and more stable neighborhood.
Program expenses are mainly the cost of food and grills, mailing coupons, and printing informal invitations. The program organizing is done by resident volunteers. In year one, twenty-one grills will be purchased at $60 each and a corkboard for the map at $30. Charcoal, food, and drinks will be purchased seven times per year at an estimated cost of $60 per "smoke-out" day. It is anticipated that event invitations and food coupons will be sent to 50 law enforcement representatives each month (50*$0.32*7months).
Possible Funding Sources:
Throughout the country toll-free phone numbers are available for residents to call in and report criminal activities. These numbers give residents the opportunity to report crime anonymously and at no cost to them. Many residents believe that when they call 911 their number is traced and thus, criminal retaliation is a huge concern. By law, calls placed to 911 emergency lines are traced. Currently, there are four hotline numbers that residents of Emerson Park can use free of charge to report suspicious behavior. When asked if they were aware of such services, most residents responded that they didn’t have the number or that they had misplaced it. This quick crime prevention strategy would place the four hotline numbers on a magnet. The four sources are:
These magnets could be distributed city-wide through the schools, local businesses, community organizations, major employers, and the Police Department. It is important to remember that the magnet’s effectiveness depends of the response rate of law enforcement and on the residents’ participation in the program. This is just one more small and inexpensive way of preventing crime if it is properly carried through.
Implementation Timeline: Year 1
The only costs of the program are for magnets and copying flyers. Magnets are estimated at $0.25 (confirmed by local copy shop) each and the first order is likely to be around 5000. Copying costs are estimated at $200 per year. The budget assumes two orders in year 1 and two more in year 2. Subsequent years should require only one order of 5000 magnets each year.
Possible Funding Sources:
Currently, residents utilize the city’s "red-letter" drug enforcement program to notify law enforcement about suspected drug houses and dealing sites (see Appendix for current form). The process involves citizens anonymously completing forms that indicate the location of drug activity and the problems they are causing. Residents typically mail these postage-paid reply envelopes to the State’s Attorney’s office. Strategy C of the crime prevention program expands the "red-letter" program to include prostitution sites and also seeks to expand resident involvement in the program. This is a small budget program that could have a tremendous impact on crime prevention in Emerson Park.
Overall, residents like the "red-letter" drug enforcement program because it gives them the opportunity to document the problems as they witness them happening in the neighborhood. Residents also like that the program is anonymous and that if they report a drug site, there is little fear of criminal retaliation. There is some concern that the response rate is a bit slow and that by sending the "red-letter" to the State Attorney’s Office and not directly to the East St. Louis Police Department there is delay in addressing problems.
Prostitution is repeatedly identified as a major threat to Emerson Park. This expanded program will allow residents to inform law enforcement of building and streets that they suspect are home to prostitution. It also provides an avenue for residents to get involved in creating a safer neighborhood who do not currently have a telephone.
Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2
The expansion of the "red-letter" drug program can be expanded to include prostitution and involve more residents at any time, ideally in Year 1 or 2.
Program costs are limited to paper (10 reams at $3.00 per ream) and postage for mailing out letters that describe the new "red-letter" ($0.32*500). Spreading the word about the expanded "red-letter" program can be done by the block captains, other residents, and student volunteers from the University of Illinois.
Possible Funding Sources:
1. U.S. Department of Justice [http://www.usdoj.gov/]
This is a four-hour orientation program for new residents of Emerson Park. Many new faces will soon be occupying new public housing authority units, units in the Parsons Place development, new single-family homes created by the Neighborhood Based Family Housing Program and new homes developed by Community Development Consultants. Over 300 units of new housing are planned for Emerson Park. As these projects move forward the newcomers would actually outnumber the long-term residents. Efforts are needed to familiarize these families with the neighborhood. By introducing them to the community early, they can become comfortable in their new surroundings and find a way to become involved in preserving a peaceful community. Particular attention needs to be given to orienting them to local crime prevention activities, which are the key to the future stability of the neighborhood. This program seeks to orient newcomers to the neighborhood, teach them about it’s history, introduce them to the local retail, the Metro Link, and other areas of interest, educate them about local crime prevention techniques and home safety, as well as introduce them to the Emerson Park Development Corporation.
The program would be offered to future residents in the period of time following their move-in dates. This program could include the following elements:
Implementation Time Line: Year 1 - 2
The New Neighbor Orientation Program could be initiated as soon as possible and developed overtime. Activities in Year One can be limited to informal welcomes and invitations to neighborhood meetings. Over the years, the program can grow to include the elements listed above.
Costs for this program include food items, invitations and mailings for 3 orientations per year:
Additional costs include renting a van to conduct tours, $50 per day.
Possible Funding Sources:
Although many neighborhood residents have lived in the area for years, and already watch out for each other, an official neighborhood watch program has yet to be implemented in the area. The "Red Letter" program began in 1993 and allows residents to report suspicious activity anonymously directly to the State’s Attorney’s office. This information is then processed at their office, and is finally dealt with at the local level, often weeks after the initial complaint. The introduction of an official Neighborhood Watch program would, in essence, remove the "middle man" from the crime prevention process, encouraging residents to watch out for each other, and allowing them to report criminal activity directly to those in charge of their safety in the community with a growing confidence that swift action will be taken. The program is national in scope, and has been in effect in several areas of the country since its inception in 1972. The National Sheriff’s Association sponsors the program nation wide, and provides information for communities interested in the program. They can also provide T-shirts, signs, and various other publicity paraphernalia.
Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program that enlists the active participation of citizens, in cooperation with law enforcement, to reduce residential crime. It means that neighbors get to know each other and work together in a program of mutual assistance. Citizens learn how to recognize and report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. The Neighborhood Watch program is about organizing the eyes and ears of an entire neighborhood into a powerful, hard to penetrate, 24 hour-a-day barrier... protecting the neighborhood. The program attempts to do the following:
It is a proven success story in communities nation wide. Several Illinois communities have significantly decreased crime after implementing Neighborhood Watch program. The program empowers residents, giving them a real sense of control over their community. Neighborhood Watch also instills a real sense of unity between residents, as they work together to keep their streets safe.
The Emerson Park Neighborhood Watch Initiative would be based primarily on the national program sponsored by the National Sheriff’s Association. More information can be found about the program at [http://www.sheriffs.org/crime_prevention.htm] or by contacting the Association at: 1450 Duke Street; Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3490. Phone number is 703-836-7827.
Implementation Timeline: Year 2
A kick-off meeting may be best suited for a spring or summer date at the beginning of Year 2.
This information can then be presented at the public meeting.
Neighborhood Watch materials are typically sponsored by local law enforcement agencies. The following budget includes the costs of these materials in case the items are not provided. The metal road signs, size 12"*18" (Grade 1) are $16 each, assume 7 signs to start, adding 2 signs per year. $100 is budgeted per year, starting in year 3, for sign repair and replacement. Other materials available from the National Sheriffs Association include the informational video, "Joining Forces" ($25) and a pre-packaged Neighborhood Watch group package for 100 participants ($73). Supply costs include paper, envelopes, and stamps for flyering and mailings:
Additional reference materials on crime prevention and safety training are budgeted at $200 per year.
Possible Funding Sources:
This page gives a full description on how to start a neighborhood watch program, step-by-step.
2. National Crime Prevention Council at (202) 466-6272
The NCPC offers an on-line guide to starting and sustaining an effective Neighborhood Watch Program.
Buildings should not stay vacant – they are not safe! – Resident interview, 3/98
Public safety is more that the prevention of drugs, violent crime, and prostitution – it is the physical elements of a neighborhood that either deter criminal activity or encourage it. Residents of Emerson Park repeatedly say that they believe crime would be lower if the following were eliminated from the neighborhood:
Detailed maps showing the location and severity of these problems are presented in the land use and infrastructure chapters of the Emerson Park Data Book.
Residents believe that if these physical problems are dealt with one by one until they are eliminated that criminals will be deterred from Emerson Park. At the Neighborhood Summit in March of 1998 and at a resident meeting in July of 1998, residents expressed interest in using the people-power of Emerson Park to identify and report infrastructure problems and code violations. This program would create a Code Enforcement Task Force that would make monthly rounds of the neighborhood, in search of code and public safety violations. Teams would be made up of residents and student volunteers from the University of Illinois. Each problem would be recorded on a form with a detailed description and a photo would be taken of the site. These violations would then be reported to the East St. Louis Police Department and the Department of Regulatory Affairs (Contact Jean L. Evans, Director, 301 River Park Drive, East St. Louis, IL, 62201 at 618-482-6826). With the assistance of the police department and city and county officials, the process for correcting these violations should be expedited. If the Police Department takes over responsibility for code enforcement, a specific contact person within the department should be identified for this program. A copy of each problem report should be kept on file in the EPDC office and as the problems are eradicated the forms should be posted on a bulletin board as "successes".
This program is based on the Enhanced Code Enforcement Team effort conducted by the Richmond Police Department in Richmond, Virginia. This program is an interagency coalition for drug and violence prevention that emphasizes community involvement. The team observed 3,132 code violations, and corrections were eventually made on 1,520. In addition, 371 court actions were filed against property owners who failed to correct violations, and 24 structures were demolished between July 1991 and December 1993. This coalition successfully combines law enforcement, with the enforcement of safe, public infrastructure as a means of drug and violence prevention. The main goals are to reduce the environmental factors that contribute to illegal activity such as unsafe, deteriorated and vacant buildings; health and fire hazards; and the illegal use of land and structures. The main difference in the Emerson Park program would be the inclusion of residents and student volunteers in the code violation identification process. The Emerson Park program also builds on the heroic efforts of the East St. Louis Community Action Network and the Neighborhood Law Office whose Code Enforcement 2000 campaign is making tremendous strides at identifying violations city-wide and forcing officials to be accountable.
Implementation Time Line: Year 2 - 3
The Crime Prevention through Infrastructure Maintenance and Code Violation Abatement program should be started in the first year of the Revitalization Plan’s implementation, after the Neighborhood Watch Program and the Expanded "Red-Letter" programs are underway.
The program relies on residents to report code violations and infrastructure problems as they do illegal activity on the "red-letter" forms. An example form is included in the Appendix.
This program is supported by resident and student volunteers who serve as problem recorders. An alternative to having this program be volunteer led is to employ a code enforcement officer in the first year and add a minimum of three local youth in year three to serve as Code Enforcement Officers. These youth officials would receive training from the EPDC Code Enforcement Officer and work approximately 10-15 hours per week. Three could be hired per year at $6.00 per hour and could work after school, on weekends, and during the summer months (32 weeks total). As the program expands, these youth could also receive training in civic leadership and tactful community relations so that they too can lobby local officials to abate the safety problems they are reporting. The youth officials will be able to spread the word about the program, record all problem areas, follow-up on abatement, receive training applicable to future job opportunities, and earn some income.
Supply costs include paper (6 reams at $3.00 per ream), training materials and postage for 200 letters per year (200*$0.32). A special event to celebrate the program’s success could be scheduled one or two years after the program beings. Estimate $150 to purchase food and other items for this neighborhood event.
Possible Funding Sources:
East St. Louis has one of the highest crime rates in the state of Illinois. The high crime discourages people from moving into the neighborhood and discourages local lenders from investing in the neighborhood. The 1997 Crime Index for East St. Louis showed a 5.3% increase in crimes from 1996. Of those crimes included in the Index, motor vehicle theft and murder increased most dramatically. Between 1996 and 1997, vehicle theft increased by an astounding 38%, while murder increased by 25%. On a more positive note, arson and burglary decreased by 2.9% and 13% respectively. On a neighborhood level, Central City Homes, located on Bowman, between 13th and 15th Streets, is a serious area for concern. Six fights were reported in the area during the fourth quarter of 1997, along with one aggravated assault and one death. These numbers only account for reported 911 calls to the East St. Louis Police Department. According to residents of Central City Homes, several other violent crimes took place in this area and went unreported.
Many residents and law enforcement experts believe that these crimes can be greatly reduced by placing police officers in the neighborhoods they serve. By creating a "home-base" for police officers, drug dealers, violent criminals and prostitutes may be less likely to come out and risk being caught by a police officer that is just down the street. A police sub-station in Emerson Park would create a physical, visible police presence in the neighborhood. This strategy would put the police into the neighborhood, improving community – police relationships and facilitating interaction between residents and the men and women protecting their streets. The police substation would serve as a constant reminder to criminals and would-be criminals that law enforcement is just down the block. The concept of police sub-stations promotes the City of East St. Louis’s goal of community policing.
The police substation would be staffed 24-hours per day and would consist of a small office, telephone, desk and possibly a computer. Possible locations for the police sub-station are Central City Homes, 9th & Exchange, and 15th & Exchange. The police office spends the majority of the day responding to anonymous phone calls and walking the neighborhood, keeping it safe. Three policemen would be hired by EPDC to man the substation at an estimated cost of $102,000 per year.
Implementation Timeline: Year 1-2
The cost of opening a police sub-station is minimal if the office space is part of a building already used by an organization that is willing share a portion of the space. Other costs include the officer’s salaries, office furniture and a telephone. The following budget is made at maximum cost – if office space had to rented, utilities paid and new office equipment was purchased.
Possible Funding Sources:
Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 27 September 1999, Deanna Koenigs